This week we profile Cecilio Aponte, a Product Analyst at SunPower. The first thing you notice about Cecilio is that he has a contagious optimism. He’s just one of those people you enjoy being around because he keeps people laughing and smiling. With all the seriousness these days, it’s nice to be around someone like Cecilio who reminds you to have fun. Oh, and he majored in Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Energy Studies at MIT, so he clearly knows how to get stuff done. Cecilio was generous enough to share some of the things he’s learning so far in his experience at SunPower. Hope you learn as much as I did. Enjoy!
Name, Title and Organization
Cecilio Aponte, Product Analyst at Sunpower
Educational Background (e.g., college, major, any graduate school or additional certifications)
Bachelors in Materials Science and Engineering and Minor in Energy Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
How do you stay informed on your sector?
Greentech media/Energy Gang, attending events put on by local energy groups (Young Professionals in Energy, Powerhouse, Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative, etc.)
What does a typical day look like in your current role? What are your primary responsibilities?
A typical day as a Product Analyst at SunPower involves three things: Market research, Data analysis and meetings with different internal groups. The market research sets the business case up for a product or helps us figure out what direction we need to go in. The analysis is usually financial models for products or exploring potential product decisions. The meeting with internal groups, engineers, sales, marketing, supply chain, etc. is helpful for communication on initiatives and learning and getting insight from the experts within the company. My primary responsibilities are to support the product manager in product related decisions, whether that is a new launch or if we are bringing a product to end of life.
Why did you first want to work in clean energy / clean technologies?
I could write many words on why I love working in this field. but if I had to say FIRST, it probably had to do with three things I knew about myself: One, I like science and technology and the field has so many different and awesome technologies. Two, I like working on complicated problems, and the field touches on so many aspects (policy, economics, engineering, business, development, etc.) that all blend together that create this wonderfully connected and complex ecosystem. Third, I just wanted to do something good for the world! Climate change and sustainability are definitely at the heart of why I want to do this work. Who doesn’t want to save the world?
What are your two favorite aspects of your job?
My favorite parts of my job are that I get to learn from so many amazing people. I am constantly learning about sales, databases, mechanical engineering, electronics and more from people who are experts, and that learning make me better at my job! Another great aspect is that being in products, I constantly have to stay on the edge what is happening in the industry- in order to stay competitive and to understand decisions, you have to know what is going on now and in the future, so its an exciting place to be.
If someone was interviewing for your role, or a role like yours, what would they need to demonstrate in the interview to give themselves an advantage?
I think demonstrating that you are willing to learn from people and can navigating getting help from others when you have no authority is important. In product management, no one directly reports to you usually, so you have to get people to help you and convince them that is is helpful for them. That communication is also made a lot easier when you make the effort to learn from people and understand their constraints and issues.
To perform your job well, what is the most necessary skill or personality characteristic, and why?
Flexibility and prioritization are necessary characteristics. You have to be flexible- my manager always says you have to be an engineer in a room of sales people and a sales person in a room of engineers, to do the job effectively. The prioritization come in because all of those groups have their own goals and asks, and it is your job to filter through that and figure out what will be most beneficial.
What is the one bit of advice you would offer a young person hoping to break into renewable energy / clean technologies?
Well as someone who is currently in that process, it might be hard to offer advice, so take it with a grain of salt. But, if I had to say something that has helped me and works for me, its to go out there and get connected with people. Volunteer, go to events, write an article. Integrating yourself with the people in the industry not only helps you break in, but it also makes the industry more fun and more exciting.
What is something you have learned in your job that surprised you?
Working at SunPower was my first time working for a large, private company, so one thing that took me by surprise is how difficult it is to manage a company that has such wide reaching ambitions. On one had, its difficult to get many things done because of the size and complexity. On the other hand, that complexity is what allows it to reach such scale and impact.
Other than the focus of your work, which realm (technology, geography, or other) of renewable energy / clean technologies is particularly interesting to you right now and why?
Energy access, or providing energy to people where is not accessible or prohibitively expensive, has been and will continue to be another interest of mine. The idea that these technologies we’re developing can vastly improve people’s livelihoods and help communities avoid some of the issues countries like the US have had due their their infrastructure, is an exciting one. Not only is it exciting, but its also necessary if we want to reach international climate goals. It reminds me that there is so much more out there and at stake than TOU prices and profits.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Logistically speaking, and it being pretty fun, it would be cool to be compensated with room and board at different employee’s houses. I have generally pretty simple needs, so a house and food is all I need, plus this way I would get a chance to get to know people in a different way and build stronger relationships.
Thanks Cecilio! Keep up the great work!